CVNE, the Compañía Vinícola del Norte de España, has been known since its founding as one of the very greatest producers of traditional Rioja. Refreshingly, in a world now full of overextracted, overwooded, overrated luxury Spanish cuvees built to achieve high scores and higher prices, the winery has held to the traditional Rioja style of wines built to age gracefully for decades. The best vintages of the 1960s and 1970s are just now peaking and offer the opportunity to enjoy mature wines at what are, considering their age and reputation, extremely reasonable prices.
The two flagship CVNE wines are Imperial and Viña Real, which are made to highlight the differences in Rioja terroirs. Imperial is produced from vineyards in Rioja Alta, which has a higher elevation and thus cooler climate than the vineyards in Rioja Alavesa which are the source of Viña Real. The differing conditions typically mean that Viña Real has darker fruit tones compared with the red fruits found in Imperial; with age both offer notes of coffee, cigar smoke, leather and earth. In blind tastings it's very possible to mistake them for well aged Bordeaux, although the brighter acidity and different oak treatment--classic Rioja was aged in large old American oak casks, imparting more herbal character and less vanilla than French wood--serves to differentiate the Riojas.
These are absolutely classic Rioja vintages, among the best of the postwar period. At an age when many Bordeaux 1966s are begining to fade, the 1966 Imperial Gran Reserva and Viña Real Reserva Especial remain vibrant and full, and the great 1970s and 1978s are still astonishingly youthful wines that may yet improve in the cellar!Tweet